MULLUMBIMBY Farmers Market cheesemaker Debra Allard of Cheeses Loves You impressed the judges at this year’s prestigious Royal Queensland Food and Wine Show, picking up three silver medals and one bronze for her hand made cheeses, but she says there’s still a lack of understanding about artisan cheeses in big competitions like the RQFWS.
Debra was awarded silver for her Tilsit, Charlie’s Mount, and Velvet Chausette cheeses, while her semi-hard cheese Ophir Glen, designed for her dairy farmer husband Jim – “who just wanted a nice hard cheese with nothing fancy” – won bronze. The awards follow a silver and a bronze at last year’s show and a state award in the 2018 Delicious Produce Awards.
The Burringbar cheesemaker, who was up against some of Australia’s biggest cheese producers said sending her cheeses off for judging was always a terrifying prospect – “it’s like sending off your children into a competition,” – and although she was proud of her results, she believes there is still not enough acceptance of the variability in flavour and appearance of hand made cheese among judges. Last year her Velvet Chausette (state winner in the Delicious Awards) wasn’t even judged because it contained air pockets, which were considered a flaw. This year she sent a note with the cheese telling the judges that’s the way it was meant to be, and it won silver.
Other cheeses she entered were also misunderstood, she says.
“The ones I don’t get high marks for are ones I love because I went to France and learnt how to make it a French way and it’s not meant to be stabilised and it’s not meant to have shelf extenders, but most commercial cheese factories do that so that it lasts for months. Mine don’t.”
“That’s the beauty of hand-made cheese it’s different every batch and that’s what people love. “
Despite her concerns, Debra, who sells much of her cheese at the Mullumbimby Farmers Market, says winning awards is a great way to build trust with her customers.
“The restaurants that are brave enough to go with me and to have my cheese on their menu like Harvest, and Fleet and Paper Daisy – it’s great to win awards to show them what they’re buying is a good quality
“For me, I don’t really care (about awards), but I care enough for the people that buy my cheese, that they know it’s good quality cheese.”